Friday, 6 April 2012

The Boy Who likes Chocolate and Academic Life...

Mismatched socks cool

‘A’ the boy who likes chocolate is visiting from university where his life is exciting, fulfilling, challenging, surprising: all one would wish. The usual subjects are covered: food, girls; a girl; studying; games; training. (As the game in question is American Football there is much to learn.)

 He plays me beautiful new sounds on his acoustic guitar which remains his relaxation in this welter of activity. He restrings his acoustic guitar. He takes to pieces his electric guitar and puts it back together again. It still works.
Secret Student
We talk quite bit, as is our custom. We get to genetics - his central study at the moment. He teaches me some very basic facts about genetics, with diagrams to  make it accessible. This is a world where the language is signs and concepts that can only be explained graphically.  New words emerge, which have a poetry all of their own: genotype, alleles, epistasis, diploid...

We discuss the  potential magic of intervention in the womb which could bring about the end of life-threatening genetic conditions. Inevitably we move onto ethical concerns and how medical ethics will be an important part of his future study.

Of course we move onto the way in which  nurture (my field) interacts with genetic predisposition. We talk about my own lifelong interest in twins – quite significant in the research into child development, which was once my own field of study.  My obsession was possibly due - I say - to the fact that my oldest siblings were twins,  christened the moment they were born  who died close to their birth.

 In the subsequent generation at the time of their birthday my mother would talk about them. The Twinnies would have been sixteen today … the Twinnies would have been twenty one today…  Calling them Twinnies made them seem so alive. She told me once that when the second twin died she stopped believing in God.

A man from around here once told me a story about an old woman, referring to her as ‘the Third Twin’, meaning the third of identical triplets. I looked it up and found that the likelihood of identical triplets was one in two million. That notion is at the core of my novel Family Ties. No novelist could resist it. Come to think of it my novel The Lavender House involved in-depth research into the Kray Twins, whom I used as models for two characters in that novel.  I suppose the notion of twins is closely linked to the nature of identity, which is a theme in so  many good novels.

‘A’ and I have played Scrabble together from when he was about four years old. For a few years I would manufacture sequences so he could make good words.  But soon we were playing  for real, which he enjoyed as,  despite being a quiet person, he is intensely competitive (think Rugby and American Football...) We played Scrabble this week-end. I banned two letter chemical formulae as it gave him an unfair advantage. It was a long, high-scoring game. 

Needless to say, he won.
Once, in France


  1. Glad he's doing so well WEndy - he's a lovely young man.

  2. A big hello to the lovely A! There is just nothing like the joy of talking intensely with a young person who has a passion for their subject - all that new vocabularly - wonderful!



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